Autism, Perception and Detail
If I had to describe Autism using three words, I would say ‘quest for detail.’ If I were given the option to continue my life without Autism, I would decline, because, for all the difficulties it comes with, I would never give up my ‘quest for detail’ and the joy and richness it gives me.
Sometimes the world seems more alive for me than it does for other people.
Yes I strive for perfection. I have high expectations for myself. I hyper-focus, I over-work, I analyse and re-do things, obsess over things… but I’m not really talking about this kind of detail. This kind of detail is conscious. It comes from perfectionism, obsession, pressure, anxiety, choice, not Autism.
The kind of detail I am talking about, is the ability to absorb such intricacy from my environment, and the inability to filter-out anything that isn’t relevant in that moment. Everything wants to be noticed by me. Everything wants to be heard by me, smelt by me, touched, tasted, and everything is detailed and amplified. This can be completely overwhelming, distracting (and weird for the people around me) but it can also bring me joy.
I don’t walk into a room and see the ‘bigger picture.’ I can’t ‘suss things out,’ or ‘get the gist,’ like others do. Everything needs to be pieced together, like a puzzle, before I can process the environment properly, and this has an impact on how I communicate. Everything is important and I can’t ‘zoom out.’ Other people do this oppositely, with more immediacy but less wonder.
I would be an excellent CCTV camera.
Of course this overloads me sometimes. It effects my motor skills and my sense of the feelings inside my body. It makes it extra-hard to socialise, concentrate, communicate. It is even harder to socialise and communicate in a place I have never been to before, because then my brain needs to notice everything for the first time.
My ‘quest for detail’ means I learn a lot. If something interests me, I have to find out everything about it. It is comforting for me to research my interests, when there is so much about ‘being human’ that I don’t ‘just know,’ like other people do. I can never forget anything, since everything I see or hear is stored like a photograph or podcast in my head, that can be referred back to. I notice all the flickery details on a persons face that give me clues about how they might feel. I notice tiny changes in people, environments and routines, and they disorientate me, no matter how tiny they are. I notice the patterns in a wooden table, the individual hairs on a persons head, the sound of electricity etc.
Other people do this too, but often with less intensity, and with the ability to filter it all out when someone talks to them.
My ‘quest for detail’ is conscious and subconscious. It impacts my ability to socialise, communicate and function at times, and it can be overwhelming, but it also means that I can find joy in little things that others don’t even notice. This can be mindful or mind full, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Autism is a gift, but only when society accepts it.